Monday, January 31, 2011

Finding a purpose after being stopped in my tracks

The ER room was quiet, the light had been turned off and I had my eyes shut. Was I trying to sleep or just lost in thought. Mini-stroke was the initial diagnoses although the doctors would debate what it actually was for another 24 hours … but, “that” is something that happens to old people. Had I reached “that” stage in my life? Plus, what kind of life am I living anyway? What am I doing with my life? Why am I still around?

The nurse asked if I had a Living Will - which I did have and believe that everybody should have. This got me to thinking further because the Living Will did have a DNR clause, as well as instructions against inserting feeding tubes, etc. But I am only 68, have two great grandbabies, our two wonderful daughters live close by and we haven’t really started to enjoy our full retirement years. Our recent Caribbean Cruise was a little reminder that there is so much more to experience in this old life.

These questions and a ton more have been milling around in my mind for the last week. For those who check my blog regularly have probably noticed that I hadn’t written anything since the mini-stroke except of just one reflection on what took place that Wednesday. Just this past Saturday, we were returning home after a dinner night out when my wife stated, “You haven’t written anything on your blog recently.” “Just been doing a lot of thinking,” was my response to her inquiry.

A former youth from my St. Luke’s days posted on my facebook entry about the stroke that her sister Janet had a stroke at the age of 46 and was completely paralyzed on the left side. That was a little hard to believe since our little Tim was the ring-bearer in Janet’s wedding. I did have something to be thankful for because both my wife and I reacted as quickly as we did (I was in the hospital ER within 40 minutes of the first symptoms) and there didn’t seem to be any permanent damage … at least nothing that a little therapy couldn’t address.

A mini-stroke? Wasn’t I healthy? Didn’t I try to eat correctly? Do a little exercise? As a nurse shared yesterday at church, upon hearing the news from her parents about my mini-stroke, “What? That doesn’t make sense. You do not smoke nor drink heavily nor have any of the other lifestyle issues that would indicate a likelihood of the possibility of experiencing a stroke – mini or otherwise.” Well, that was encouraging, but still reality was reality.

I have faced this reality previously. I had a little dread while approaching the age of 47 since that was the age at which my mother had her first major heart attack. But, 47 came and went … and there wasn’t anything. Now, 55 was another issue. Other than my mother’s heart problems (all stressed related) there was no family medical history, but there I was looking at double by-pass surgery on my heart. No attack, just aggressive medical diagnosis indicated that I had a heart attack in the making if it wasn’t addressed soon. So, again, I was saved for a reason.

It has become apparent to me that I really enjoy being around people. I found myself slipping into a rather lazy routine after our move to Bradenton. Too much TV, too much time sitting around, too much time doing nothing … so I started volunteering as a pastoral visitor for our church, but what I was being asked to do was visit the rather extensive list of shut-ins. I had discovered a long time ago through a Gift’s for Ministry Seminar that I neither had the patience nor temperament for shut-in ministry. So, slowly I’ve moved away from that responsibility. Then an opportunity came open at the local movie theatre. Not a bad job. It was very, very part-time and besides I got to be around people, but while lying in the hospital room – they called it “forced bed rest” or as I began to think of it … bed imprisonment – I came back to the question of why was I working at the theatre. Free movies was a nice perk, getting to talk with people was great, but other than that it didn’t really fulfill a Kingdom purpose. Actually, Margaret had begun to ask that very question after the Christmas holidays and, now that I had a lot of time to think, I too began to ask the same question.

I’m not really sure what God is planning for me, but I hope I have the patience to wait on him instead of running ahead of him … like I normally do. And so, I wait on him to give direction to my life and my future … and try to survive the therapy!

Quote for today: We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about. ~Charles Kingsley

Monday, January 24, 2011

Reflections on a stroke

It was last Wednesday morning about 10 am. I was finishing shaving so I could shower and get dressed to do a little pastoral visiting. The church had a couple of people in the hospital that as the volunteer pastoral visitor I should go see, but something happened to change the course that I would take that day and for the rest of the week.

As I was putting my shaver back into its cradle my head took a quick dip to the right, actually a very quick movement to the right. Strange. Then I went to lift my shaver and cradle to move it back to where it normally sits and though I was able to do it my left arm moved rather peculiarly. Hmmm. As I backed away from the sink I noticed that my left leg moved strangely and it felt different.

So, very carefully and concentrating on keeping my balance I went to get the phone so I could call Margaret who was babysitting our two grandchildren. I described, as best I could, what I was experiencing. Her suggestion was to go on the Internet and Google symptoms of a stroke. Bingo. Of the four indicators I was experiencing two of them. I called her back and by 10:40 she had me in the front seat of the SUV and we were heading to the hospital.

While filling out the initial sheet in the ER the nurse asked me why I was there. Upon hearing my symptoms he took no time putting me in a wheelchair and before I knew it there was a Stroke Alert being called … and off I went. They didn’t waste a whole lot of time. Doctor after doctor began to move in and out of my little room. Nurse after nurse, test after test – the one where you squeeze two fingers in each hand of the individual asking the questions, smile, stick out your tongue, lift both arms, touch your nose and their lifted finger with your left arm and then your right, lift both legs and hold them up, several strength tests pushing against their hands with both arms, legs and feet, follow their finger with my eyes, look at their nose and tell them how many fingers they are holding up at various locations to my left, right, up and down – everyone who came into the room throughout the day and the next day ran me through the same battery of tests. I wish my college exams had been that easy.

Then off for a CAT Scan of my brain … I’m glad that they found that I still had some gray matter up there. An EEG and then an echocardiogram followed these tests. Vials of blood where drawn … lots of vials … at one time she drew 12 vials. A complete blood profile is needed she told me. All of this was followed with more tests. A chest X-ray and then a MRI of my head and neck and always the same series of … squeeze the two fingers, lift my arms, legs, push against their hands, etc. and doctor after doctor asking the same series of questions.

The debate was on between the various doctors … stroke or TIA. One doc would suggest one thing based on some test and then another doc would mention the other simply based on observation. Finally, one doc – forgot which one because they had started to be a little blur of white coats – shared that it probably was a stroke since my leg had not returned to normal. The slight numbness in my face had gone and the movement of my arm was also normal, but my leg was still weak. Conclusion: a mini-stroke.

In the midst of all this, physical therapy had been added to the mix. They took asked the same series of questions, took me through the same series of little strength and movement tests. Then I finally was allowed up out of the bed after more than 24-hours of bed rest. I was a little shaky and very light headed, but was able to walk around. My leg did feel like someone was knocking my knee out and it was definitely weak. BUT … if I would ring for the PCS to let them know that I was getting up from the bed I could go to the bathroom. Yeah, God … free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I was free at last!

The next day they had me walking the hallways and up a flight of stairs. Going up was a piece of cake. Coming down was a little more challenging. It was a little slow going, but I made it. The stage was set and I was ready to be released. Late Friday I bid them farewell and home I went.

Physical therapy is to be scheduled and several follow-up visits to the doctors. The words of my cardiologist were still ringing in my ears, “You are proof that anyone, regardless of their physical condition or heart strength, can have a stroke. You eat right, exercise regularly (I didn’t admit that I haven’t been on my treadmill since Thanksgiving) and have a very strong and healthy heart – even with the double by-pass – where the clot came from is anyone’s guess.”

Now the challenge is to get back to being normal … and as a person at church yesterday shared, “Well, getting back to being normal will be a great improvement!” … and I don’t think she was referring to my physical well-being.

Quote for today: “You can’t control the wind … but you can always adjust your sail.” Holy Mole by Rick Hotton

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A modern day parable - God getting our attention!

This modern day parable causes me to pause and wonder how many bricks God has to throw at me to get my attention. In our varied and numerous activities are we taking the time to listen for the voice of God? This is my major one struggle in my spiritual walk. Too often it is simply a one-way conversation, just me telling God what I want him to hear. The bricks hurt, but sometimes that is the only way God gets my attention. How about you?

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag's side door! He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, "What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That's a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?"

The young boy was apologetic. "Please, mister...please, I'm sorry but I didn't know what else to do," He pleaded. "I threw the brick because no one else would stop...” With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. "It's my brother," he said. "He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up." Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, "Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me."

Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay.

"Thank you and may God bless you," the grateful child told the stranger.

Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message. "Don't go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!"

God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don't have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. It's our choice to listen or not.

Quote for today: Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God. ~Diana Robinson

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Power of the positive

There is power to be found in positive thinking. Negative energy drains you. Negative or critical feelings rob an individual of the energy needed to live. It tears down, destroys, obliterates, wipes out, annihilates, demolishes, diminishes and devastates the spirit.

Positive is a life force. It brings an individual into harmony with the God of the universe – who is pure energy. A positive attitude, thinking, behavior, and belief builds up, strengthens, fortifies, reinforces, supports and increases the good in life.

The choice is ours as to which side we join ... one is bright, the other is dark ... one is filled with hope and possibilities, the other negates any effort … one leads to happiness and purpose in life, the other brings brokenness and meaningless. The choice is ours.

A chorus of a song kept running through my mind while walking among the palm trees of the Caribbean Islands … “Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.” Negative feelings and thinking can transform our spirit into a bitter, soar tasting fruit or the Holy Spirit can transform our spirit into a positive, sweet tasting fruit. It is our choice.

Quote for today: Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. ~Anthony J. D'Angelo

Monday, January 17, 2011

Don't worry, be happy - reflections on our cruise

No matter where we turned during our shore excursions while on our Caribbean cruise the same general philosophy prevailed … “Don’t worry, be happy.” The old Bob Marley song just kept coming to mind. While it appeared, at least to my untrained eyes, that poverty prevailed – at least a standard of living that I am not accustom to seeing at every turn in the road – nevertheless, there was laughter, smiles, and a simplicity of life that somehow has escaped us in our driven society.

The question was asked about unemployment. The answer given was that there isn’t any unemployment in the islands. If you want to work, there is work to be had. If you want to eat, you work. There is no welfare offered by the state. Totally free medical services are provided, even to those of us who were visitors to their island, along with medicine. Education is free and everyone is expected to attend – it is required by law. But, there is no government supported food stamp program, welfare or other financial support. If you want to eat you will either farm or work. Now an individual might only make $10 for 8-hours of labor, but work is available.

In Belize the government leases a piece of property to every individual when they turn 18. If in the next five years you show the government that you are working to improve that piece of property by clearing it and starting to build a home on it the property will be given to you. Also, if an individual is interested in leasing some farmland from the government they will provide up to 20 acres, but again you have to prove to the authorities that you will work that land into a produce producing farm. At some point in the process ownership of that 20 acres will be turned over to the individual.

On another island we discovered that everyone wears uniforms. Each school has a different color uniform. In this way if a police officer sees a misbehaving child or finds one lost they will know which school to take the child to. Further, every adult wears a uniform to identify which company they work for and where. But, underlining this very ordered society was the “don’t worry, be happy” philosophy.

While I was happy to be back home to my own bed and the comfort of my own home, but there was the longing to bring back with me some of that laid back thinking of the islands and the “don’t worry, be happy” philosophy. While establishing our great democratic society we have lost something in the process. We are driven to get ahead, achieve more, to obtain, to build, to purchase, to get, to have … and life is slipping beyond our grasp … just passing us by … and happiness is lost in the process. When do we have time to watch the clouds move across the sky? When do we take the time to watch the sea roll in? When do close our eyes so we can hear the bird’s song in the trees? When do we take the time to relax and have a casual conversation with our neighbors? When do we find the time for a leisurely walk down a dirt path allowing the warm earth to caress our bare feet? And, when do we permit our mind to wander through the wonders of thought just to see where it might lead?

“Don’t worry, be happy” … we have more in our small part of the world, but I began to wonder what we have lost in the process of obtaining what we have, especially when there is so much worry that comes packaged with our lifestyle.

Quote for today: Worry is faith in the negative, trust in the unpleasant, assurance of disaster and belief in defeat...worry is wasting today's time to clutter up tomorrow's opportunities with yesterday's troubles. A dense fog that covers a seven-city-block area one hundred feet deep is composed of less than one glass of water divided into sixty thousand million drops. Not much is there but it can cripple an entire city. When I don't have anything to worry about, I begin to worry about that. ~Walter Kelly

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A modern day parable about letting go and trusting

This is one of my favorite stories, a modern day parable. I’ve told it so many times that I have lost count. Sometimes I tell it in a slightly different style with a punch line from the climber: “Is there anybody else up there?” Life is treacherous at best. We shouldn’t try “climbing” it by ourselves. Learning to trust God seems to be the hardest part.

Here is the story of a climber, determined to reach the summit of a high mountain. After years of preparation, he began his adventure. Only he journeyed alone, because he wanted all the glory.

He began he ascent, and as daylight faded, he decided to continue until night fell.

The night fell heavy as he was overcome by total darkness. The moonlight and starlight were hidden within the clouds. There was zero visibility.

He was only a few yards away from the summit when he slipped climbing a ridge and fell off, falling at a frightening speed. While falling, he could only see shadow-like figures in the darkness and felt the tug of gravity sucking him down. In those anguishing moments, he saw his life pass before his eyes.

He thought death was near when suddenly he felt the tightening of the rope around his waist that tied him to a nail embedded in the rock wall of the mountain.

In desperation, suspended in mid-air, he screams "GOD, please Help me!"

Then unexpectedly, a deep voice from heaven responds: "What would you have me do?"

He replies, "Save me!"

"Do you really think I can save you?"

"Of course, my Lord."

"Well then, cut the rope."

There was a moment of silence, then the man tightened the rope around his waist.

The mountain rescue team tells a story of a man they found frozen to death, his hands wrapped firmly around a rope tied to his waist...hanging two feet from the ground.

So, how tight are your ropes? Would you let go?

It is heard often – “let go and let God” – but it is easier said then done, but like riding a bicycle the more you do it the easier it becomes.

Quote for today: To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. ~C. S. Lewis

NOTE: There will be no postings on this blog January 9-16, 2010 because I will be enjoying a Caribbean Cruise with my spouse of 45-years and some friends.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fasten your seat belts!

I’ve shared previously postings from FAITH MATTERS by The Rev. Dr. Jim Harnish – the senior pastor of the historical Hyde Park United Methodist Church in downtown Tampa and one of the continual spiritual resources for my thinking. Today I share a portion of the one that he wrote his congregation on December 30, 2010. I hope that you agree that it is thought provoking.

I have no idea what All About Eve was all about, but I know one of the most memorable lines in movie history, delivered with knife-like precision by Bette Davis, comes from it: “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Strangely enough, I remembered that line as I stepped into Matthew’s gospel. The shift from Luke’s birth narrative, which we read on Christmas Eve, to Matthew’s story is about as abrupt as the way department store Christmas decorations are replaced by “After Christmas Sale” signs. Suddenly, the candle glow is gone. We are thrust into the harsh light of a cold, brutal world. We are torn out of the fantasy of a “Winter Wonderland” and thrown into Herod’s world; a dark, eerily familiar world of political power based on violence and maintained by fear.

The tension in the story centers around Herod’s fear of the Magi’s search for an upstart king who would threaten his reign. That tension works its way throughout the entire gospel. From beginning to end, Matthew forces the question upon us: Which will you choose? The kingdoms of Herod’s world or the Kingdom of God? Under whose reign will you live? Herod and Pilate or Jesus? Which way will you follow? The way of force and violence that leads to death or the way of love and peace that leads to life?
It’s as if Matthew is warning us at the very beginning, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

What Difference Does Jesus Make?

What real, tangible difference does Jesus make in our world and in our lives? Start wrestling with that question and things can get bumpy very quickly.

Let’s face it. Like political power players in every generation, Herod could not have cared less about a “spiritual” Savior/King who would prepare people to go to Heaven when they die. But like the power people in every generation, Herod was scared stiff by the presence of a Savior/King who starts changing the way people live right now. After all, pre-Emancipation slave masters were perfectly content for slaves to sing, “When I get to Heaven, gonna put on my shoes and walk all over God’s Heaven.” What terrified them was when slaves started talking about having shoes right here, right now.

Herod could see that Jesus had come to plant an alternative Kingdom that would undermine his authority and control; a kingdom that would be based on love rather than fear; a vision of biblical social justice rather than ruthless force; the way of peace rather than violence.

Quote for today: Heaven is more than a destination; it is a motivation. Knowing that we shall dwell in the heavenly city ought to make a difference in our lives here and now. ~Warren W. Wiersbe

NOTE: There will be no postings on this blog January 9-16, 2010 because I will be enjoying a Caribbean Cruise with my spouse of 45-years and some friends.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What will it be lemons or lemonade?

Lemons or lemonade is the question isn’t it? There is a constant drain upon our energy and our ability to handle the #@*&% that life throws at us. It tests our spiritual capability to handle stress. Most often that stress is being produced by the people that matter the most … our loved ones … members of our immediate family … our spouse, children, brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles … the people that are there if we like it or not. Sometimes it gets so bad that it could even make Mother Teresa cut loose with a few choice curse words!

We constantly try to remind ourselves that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” or “When God shuts a door he always opens a window” The burden of what we are presently carrying already has us dragging our chin on the ground and, besides, that window he opens seems to always have a screen in it! And, then we read, for the umpteenth time, “Footprints” as a means to recall that God is carrying us at the present time. We recite the words from Matthew 11:28. Personally, I like The Message translation: “Are you tired? Worn out? … Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest.”

Who is ready for “a real rest”?

For some crazy reason we think that we have to carry all these problems by ourselves. After all, as the saying goes, “we made our own bed …” But there is hope, there always is for if God is on our side who can stand against us – what power, what principalities, what authority, what problems, what situations, what individuals – there is nothing and no one. End of story! Colossians 1:17 states, again from The Message, “He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.” There isn’t anything beyond his grasp. He has the first word, the last word and all the words in between.

Who is ready for “a real rest”? I am … and probably so are you!

I was recently reminded of something that happened while the pastor of First Hudson. We had an evening vespers service at the end of which we would all share our prayer concerns – the situations over which we felt we had absolutely no power or hope. It gradually grew into a major teaching moment when I simply began to share that don’t we each think that God wants these situations to change? Do any of us really think that the pain and heartache that we are talking about are really within the realm of God’s purpose and will for life? I then suggested, thanks to the leading of the Holy Spirit, that if we fully and completely think that God desires a better situation for each one of us shouldn’t we start thanking him for the changes and a brighter tomorrow instead of just pleading for something to give?

This started us down a path of triumphant prayer filled with victory and praise. The atmosphere actually began to change on those Sunday night. Reports started filtering in about hope and possibilities. Oh, we continued to mention the needs, but it was always within the attitude of healing and wholeness. We claimed the reality that resurrection had taken place and that Christ actually did hold all of life together … and we tasted the sweet, cool nectar of lemonade!

Quote for today: Every problem is an opportunity to prove God's power. Every day we encounter countless golden opportunities, brilliantly disguised as insurmountable problems. ~Chuck Swindoll

NOTE: There will be no postings on this blog January 9-16, 2010 because I will be enjoying a Caribbean Cruise with my spouse of 45-years and some friends.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The nudging of the Holy Spirit

The nudge can come unexpectedly, but ever so slightly. A butterfly touch can prick your spirit. A quick passing thought, like billboards on a super highway, can offer a message if we are paying attention. But given the agendas of our complicated and busy lives these multiple messages can be missed and all the while, the Holy Spirit continues to give that nudge, touch our spirit and send messages that a particular person needs to be contacted.

The phone call had come while we were all away ... dad was at work, my two brothers where attending university classes and I was in high school school. Mom was alone when she received news that Grandma Mart had passed away. She needed someone to talk to. Grandma’s passing would mean that dad would have to fly back home, but there were some very complicated domestic issues that made this troubling. She just needed someone that she trusted to talk about these issues. As she stood in the living room wondering what to do up the walkway came Pastor Koestline … “I was just in the neighborhood and thought that I would just pop-in for a visit if that is okay,” he said.

Did God know about the pending phone call when Pastor Koestline was planning his travels that morning? Did God know that mom would need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and wisdom to share? Was the pastor’s visit “just” an accident … a happenstance … a chance juxtaposition of person, time and need … or, was there something else at work within the situation.

A nudge … a butterfly touch … a passing thought … simple reminders of the Holy Spirit that a letter needs to be written, an e-mail sent, a phone call made, a visit offered … simple reminders that are all to often dismissed and an opportunity is lost to be about God’s business … the business of being interconnected with each other … the business of caring and sharing this journey through life with each other and by chance, making the burden being carried by another a little lighter … a little easier to manage … less painful … less bothersome.

Who would have thought? Who would have imagined? If we would only pay attention what wonders could be performed by a simple act of thoughtful kindness … and the Holy Spirit gives that little nudge … a butterfly touch … a passing thought … a simple reminder … and God’s business is performed once again among us, through us and because of us.

Quote for today: Mamie Adams always went to a branch post office in her town because the postal employees there were friendly. She went there to buy stamps just before Christmas one year and the lines were particularly long. Someone pointed out that there was no need to wait in line because there was a stamp machine in the lobby. "I know," said Mamie, “but the machine won't ask me about my arthritis." ~Bits and Pieces

NOTE: There will be no postings on this blog January 9-16, 2010 because I will be enjoying a Caribbean Cruise with my spouse of 45-years and some friends.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Resolutions - one of the oldest seasonal celebrations

Made any New Year’s resolutions? You might be thinking, “Why bother? I would just break them anyway!” or, “It’s just a waste of time.”
Besides, where did we get the notion that there should be “resolutions” just because it is the New Year anyway?

The New Year’s celebration is the oldest of all “seasonal” celebration. It began in Babylon (we call that land Iraq to day) nearly 4,000 years ago.

And, you guessed it, they also started the notion of making a resolution to change something in their lives at the turn of the year.
Interesting is that their #1 resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

Let me share the top ten New Year’s resolutions as gleaned from the internet:
1) Spend more time with family & friends.
2) Exercise more & regularly
3) Tame the bulge
4) Quit smoking
5) Enjoy life more
6) Quit drinking
7) Get out of debt
8) Learn something new
9) Help others (volunteer)
10) Get organized

Do you see yourself in this list? I would have to confess that I see more than one on the list that applies to me and my life. In fact, there is only 2 or 3 which I would NOT need to make.

The challenge is this:
1) Am I going to make the resolution?
2) How committed will I be to make the change?
3) Do I really, really, really want to make the change?
4) What, if anything, am I going to do about it?

It is never easy making changes. None of us embrace the concept of change with eagerness because if we did we won’t be in the shape we’re in … now would we?

And yet … there ARE those certain areas in my life which, if I would be honest, that really do need to be changed. This is true, especially if I believe that my body, mind and spirit is a holy temple of my God; that everything about what I am and what I am about should honor God; that I am a living testimony to the Almighty Father – who created me, saved me and sustains me.

Would it be possible to choose just one from the top ten list – just one – and see what can be done about it? Failure often results when we make a list of ten things instead of just one. Failure results when we take on too much at one time. Failure comes when we do not get instant results. We will fail if we try to accomplish everything, but success could be ours if we tried to address just one and try to accomplish that in small daily steps. How about it? Are you game?

Quote for today: A resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible. ~Thomas Hardy

Monday, January 3, 2011

A New Year has dawned

The stillness of the night was pierced by various small explosions followed by a number of loud bursts. Sleep had been successfully interrupted. The New Year had arrived much like every other New Year with loud celebrations emitting from homes within the community and with sleep lost within the mix.

The next morning had arrived like most other mornings. Upon retrieving the morning paper there was a peaceful silence which engulfed the street on which I live. There wasn’t anything different this morning than yesterday’s morning. The same cool damp air greeted me. The leaves were still falling from the neighbor’s tree. Cars where parked along the street. The lone early morning walker was out doing his normal walk through the neighborhood. Nothing unusual. Nothing different. Nothing unique. Except the date for this morning was magically changed into a new number for the year.

The slate had been wiped clean. The errors from the past could be forgotten. New possibilities lay ahead. Moving forward into the future, my future, would be up to me. I could continue to nurse the painful memories from the past filling my thoughts with regrets over bad decisions made and of all those things that could have been if only.

Or, I could accept the gift of grace that offers the “get-out-of-jail” card … the grace which means that not only was the slate wiped clean, but it was washed down so that there wasn’t even a hint of chalk dust in the corners of my life … no indication that anything ever existed on the slate of my life.

Oh, the consequences of those decisions once made are still around. I couldn’t escape them because they built the reality of my present existence, but in the stillness of day one of the New Year I was reminded that a new day has dawned … I can start over … I can “Change (my) reckless way of livin', cross over the bridge” and “leave (my) fickle past behind (me), cross over the bridge” and while Patti Page’s song had to do with romance nevertheless I heard it that early morning of the first day of the New Year as a statement about my relationship with God … the “romance” of the lover of my soul.

A new day had dawned, the future had arrived, God’s purpose lay before me and it was simply waiting for my embrace. All the possibilities of heaven were spread, like a giant tablecloth filled with a celestial banquet of endless hope and marvelous, delicious morsels of acceptance and forgiveness. God was giving me another chance to get it right for the umpteenth time … far beyond the 70 times 7 … His patience is unbelievable and His love is endless. Maybe the author was correct when he asserted that the Second Coming was not to be found in the coming of the Messiah again into our world, but in the fulfillment of God’s purpose in our lives as we move into the future that God has created for us ... as we realize our full potential … as we become a more complete creation … as our energy is joined with His energy to do “these things and greater still” (“The person who trusts me will not only do what I'm doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I've been doing. You can count on it.” John 14:12, The Message).

Move over old world, get out of my way painful memories, get behind me bad decisions … the new tomorrow has arrived and I embrace it … thanks be to God!

Quote for today:
Another year is dawning,
Dear Father let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with thee.
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.
Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness,
The glory of thy face.
Another year of leaning
Upon thy loving breast,
Another year of trusting,
Of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service,
Of witness for thy love,
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning,
Dear Father, let it be,
On earth, or else in heaven,
Another year for thee.
~Frances R. Havergal

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Resolutions or Revolutions?!?

Well, Happy New Year! It is that time again when some of us make New Year’s Resolutions or as the little boy cartoon character in Born Loser calls them, Revolutions. I kind of like his thinking because these Resolutions are meant to drastically changing our lives. After posting T.D. Jakes remarks yesterday I kind of adopted the “Let It Go” concept for 2011. We’ll see how it goes.

I came across this list that Jonathan Edwards made at one time. Chuck Swindoll partially adopts portions of this list in one of his books as his resolves for the New Year. Regardless which approach we take – the more formal list, i.e. Jonathan Edwards, or the more simplified version, i.e. T.D. Jakes concept, nevertheless it is a good and healthy practice to take a long look at one’s life and see where a “revolution” should/needs to take place.

Here is Jonathan Edwards’ list:

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humble entreat Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake. [I will] remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.

Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

Resolved, Never to do anything out of revenge.

Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.

Resolved, To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.
Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.
Resolved, Always to do that which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.

It can be a serious approach, as illustrated above, or with a little humor as one man shared with me yesterday, “I resolved some years back to give up drinking because I discovered that I always had an allergic reaction when I drank … I would breakout with a bad case of handcuffs.” Or, as one individual shared in her Facebook posting, “I gave up New Year’s resolutions for Lent!”

I find it interesting that we are much quicker to see how the other person should change their lives instead of understanding those areas within our own that should/need to change. And then there are those times that we become “hot and heavy” on making some changes only to pull away, fall off, cool to the idea of making the changes long lasting. Most of the time these deal with our relationship with God and our commitment to start taking serious that relationship. As a pastoral counselor I’ve witnessed it more than once as individuals resolve to walk in a more committed relationship with God and/or even think about moving in the direction of doing something in ministry only to allow those ideas to cool off for the lack of discipline.

May this year be different both for you and me! May our personal spiritual revolution begin!

Quote for today: Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be. ~Thomas a'Kempis

NOTE: There will be no postings on this blog January 9-16, 2010 because I will be enjoying a Caribbean Cruise with my spouse of 45-years and some friends.